Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Disability History Night speakers reflect on civil rights, accessibility on campus

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Disability rights advocate Nancy Crowther speaks about the history of disability rights in the United States and Texas on Tuesday. A UT alumni, Crowther fought for equal access on campus and helped Capital Metro create one of the first accessible bus fleets.

UT alumni and disability-rights advocates discussed their experiences attending the University and highlighted civil rights progress on Tuesday during Disability History Night. 

The event, hosted by Student Government’s Disabilities Inclusion Agency, featured Renee Lopez and Nancy Crowther, two members of disability advocacy organization ADAPT of Texas. Chase Karacostas also spoke about his battle with carpal tunnel syndrome and thoracic outlet syndrome. 

Lopez, an alumna who graduated in the 1980s, said a disability is a condition that makes it harder for someone to accomplish tasks without equitable access in society. She said prior to the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, college campuses lacked infrastructure that accommodated students with physical limitations. 

“When I first came to the University, it was accessible, but not completely accessible,” Lopez said. “I can’t tell you how many times I would go to class and I had to wait outside in the cold (and) rain for somebody to come by and open the door. Now I come to the University, and as soon as I got to the (Texas) Student Union, I pushed a button and the door opened.” 

During her time as a student in the 1980s, Crowther became involved in a class-action lawsuit against the University because the campus shuttle service was inaccessible for students who used wheelchairs. Although the plaintiffs lost the case, she said the lawsuit sparked change. 

“It was a David versus Goliath type of situation,” Crowther said. “It gave us an opportunity to see that (change) can be done. Through that, we started with accessible transportation rules and regulations in the Americans with Disabilities Act.” 

Karacostas, who graduated in 2020, said he developed his conditions at age 19 when he attended UT. He said obtaining accommodations from certain professors was a challenge, and one even pushed back against his request. 

“This was not that long ago, and there are still people out there that do not understand how important these issues are and how terrifying they are,” Karacostas said. “I can only imagine someone who’s less hard-headed than me being like ‘I guess we’ll just figure it out’ and just punching their way through an essay in so much pain.” 

Karacostas said workplaces and other institutions should offer accommodations upfront rather than waiting for individuals to request them. 

“By giving that option to every person involved, it destigmatizes the entire issue,” Karacostas said. “By offering it to everybody, it also forces everyone else in the organization to think about how these things are important.” 

Crowther said campus today is more accessible for students with disabilities, but there’s still room for change. 

“We didn’t have anything, now y’all got everything,” Crowther said. “What’s got to come next is to fix anything that’s wrong or broken and also be as assertive as possible.” 

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